It’s February, and Valentine’s Day is in the air. Unfortunately, it’s also that time of year when we are bombarded with messaging about how to improve our romantic and sexual relationships. We are told if we buy this product or go on that adventure it will make any relationship “perfect.”
Even candy gives relationship advice, ordering us to “kiss me” and “be mine”. But what if those messages on the candy hearts are wrong? What’s really at the heart of any good relationship actually starts with a large order of FRIES.
Relationships, romantic or platonic, are a series of behaviors two people engage in with each other. When people reflect on those behaviors, it creates space for behavior changes that can be positive for any relationship. I suggest that people think about the behaviors they and their partner are engaging in and place them in one of three buckets:
- Healthy Behavior: behaviors that allow for both partners to have equal control, power, and agency to consent to
- Unhealthy Behavior: Behaviors that are starting to take away one person’s power, control, and agency to consent
- Abusive Behavior: behaviors that have taken away one person’s power, control, and agency to consent
Consent is the key word. Consent is often associated merely with saying yes to something, but there are several elements that must be present for consent to truly happen in a healthy relationship. FRIES shows what consent is really about...
- Freely Given: Consent cannot be given if a person is threatened, forced, blackmailed, or tricked into saying yes
- Reversible: Even if someone has said they consent to an activity, they can change their mind at any point. Their partner should respect that change and not pressure them to continue or shame them for changing their mind
- Informed: Someone can only consent if they know the facts to what they are consenting to.
- Enthusiastic: Consent is about saying yes to something that a person really wants to do. They are not saying yes because they have been pressured or guilt tripped by a partner until they give in
- Specific: Saying yes to one thing does not give consent for something else. Saying yes to a specific act does not give consent for any other behavior
When we engage in behaviors that give partners equal power, we create relationships that are built on choice, respect, and consent. So this Valentine’s Day if you are looking to spend some time setting up relationship goals with friends or lovers, consider skipping the candy hearts and bring an order of FRIES instead.